Tadeusz Lysiak’s live-action short The Dress (Sukienka) won an Oscar-qualifying award at the 2021 Atlanta Film Festival. The 30-minute Polish film focuses on a woman with dwarfism, Julia, who works as a maid in a dingy motel while trying to find love as well as come to grips with her own insecurities.
The Dress was produced by Warsaw Film School and was co-financed by The Polish Film Institute. Co-producers included Dobro, Milo and Glosno. Dobro is a full service, creative production studio that’s part of Platige Image. Based in Warsaw, Milo is an image post production studio, while Glosno is a sound studio.
Cinematographer Konrad Bloch shot the project, which spanned six days. According to Lysiak, the script was 32 pages long and had 51 scenes.
“It was really hard to make all of it in such a short time, but we managed,” says the director. “We shot the movie in Warsaw and some smaller cities around Poland’s capital, but we had to make it look like a small city. We searched for a lot of places that could work. Motel sequences were shot in two different motels - one for interiors and one for exteriors.”
Cinematographer Bloch shot handheld and with an Easyrig to help create the documentary feel of being there with the characters.
“We also wanted to be as close to the protagonist with the camera as we could,” Lysiak, notes. “We decided that we don’t want to exaggerate Julia’s height and make it too straightforward.”
Mariusz Gos served as editor on the project, which ran 45 minutes in length after the first cut.
“It was really close of becoming a full feature,” says Lysiak. “We had to cut out (a) couple of really good scenes for it to have a running time that’s acceptable at short film festivals.”
The short uses little music, a conscious decision by the filmmaker, who didn’t want to distract from its authenticity.
“But still, we wanted to have some scores playing in some crucial scenes,” says Lysiak. “Here came the really talented music composer from Poland, Jan Ignacy Królikowski. He has made an amazing score that’s delicate and resonates emotions that are hidden in Julia’s mind.”